Writers - Chris Claremont
with plot assist by Barry Windsor-Smith
Artists - Barry Windsor-Smith/Terry Austin
"Once upon a time, there was a woman who could fly."
Chris Claremont teamed up with Barry Windsor-Smith in 1984 for a double-sized issue of Uncanny X-Men. The art was a jarring break from the usual John Romita Jr. art.
However, this collaborative effort generated a sequel in Uncanny X-Men #198 "Lifedeath II" and a couple of other stand-alone stories in Uncanny X-Men #205 (which focused on Wolverine) and Uncanny X-Men #214.
This story was as elusive as its title "Lifedeath". "Lifedeath" is not a real word, but a mash-up of two opposed themes. These themes can be seen from several conflicting points-of-view, Storm’s and Forge’s. Storm had been stripped of her mutant powers and Forge was the mutant genius responsible for the weapon that stole her powers.
Their encounters were awkward, displaying their unfamiliarity with love and their need to deal with the attraction they felt for each other.
The awkwardness of a new relationship was in full display as Forge stumbled on every opportunity Storm gave him. Instead of emotionally investing himself, he doesn't say a word, doesn't try to understand or sympathize, and withdrew.
Storm felt she was living dead without her powers, living a “lifedeath”. Forge wanted her to emerge from this traumatized state, an emotional death, to living her new reality. The beauty of that conflict was that in between it was their love.
Driven by his guilt, Forge tried to help Storm readjust to her life without powers. But, she resisted his efforts. "This is not life, Forge, merely existence -- A shadow of what was. To believe otherwise is but the cruelest of deceptions." "I won't accept that. And now you've got to walk, like everybody else. The goddess has become just plain folks."
Forge's own troubled past surfaced in their interactions and he wanted to teach Storm the lessons that helped him recover. "With life, there are always options, possibilities -- hope. You never know what'll happen next -- for better or worse. Death may be certain, but it's also final. Once done, it's done -- there're no second thoughts, no going back." That early attraction they felt for each other was abruptly killed when Storm learned that Forge was responsible for her de-powered state.
“Lifedeath” is about the death of a dream, Storm's dream. But, it's also about the birth of hope, of hope for a future worth living for. As Storm said: "My feet may never leave the ground... but someday, I shall learn to fly again!"
Claremont explained his collaboration with Windsor-Smith (Amazing Heroes #75, July 1985):
"[Barry] had written long involved notes on the characterization, on aspects of the relationship between Storm and Forge, on how he might handle scenes. He was commenting on things that I had written in terms of the plot, making suggestions, all of which were germane, fascinating, interesting – and used, for the most part."
Re-reading this issue, I was reminded how I didn't like Barry Windsor-Smith's take on Storm. I loved the softer Storm drawn by Paul Smith and felt that Barry's Storm was too masculine. Although, there are a few stunning panels where I felt Barry actually got Storm right, he overall effort is impressive. I realized was how well Smith used body language. The emotional impact of a scene, whether it was tender moment or a moment of anger or an argument, you can see how it amplified the moment.
“Lifedeath” was a conflict between two characters with no real external forces, so there was a lot of Storm and Forge moving around, posturing, displaying their emotions while engaging in discussions. Glynnis Oliver's lavish colours and Terry Austin's lovely inks enhanced the beauty of Smith's work.
This memorable book is worth your time to track down. It's also available in the X-Men: Lifedeath Marvel Premier Edition.
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- "The Uncanny" part of the logo was left off for this issue. I'm assuming it allowed more of Barry's art to show through